To say that the holidays can be stressful would be an understatement. And while you can’t control all the chaos, you can be the boss of your skincare routine. That’s why this is the perfect time to transform your daily skincare regimen into purposeful rituals. Not only will your complexion benefit, so will your well-being.
“Skincare rituals give attention and focus like a home ‘appointment’ ensuring that we keep both the time and steps it takes to properly maintain our skin and mitigate stress,” says Ava Shamban, a board certified cosmetic dermatologist, clinical researcher, and beauty author based in Beverly Hills. “Sometimes it’s just a way to slow down, disconnect or decompress, however there are actual dermal benefits and cellular support at play with most of these rituals that are invaluable.”
Meet the Experts
Ava Shamban, M.D., is a board certified cosmetic dermatologist, clinical researcher, and beauty author based in Beverly Hills.
Joanna Vargas is a celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care and author of "Glow From Within."
According to Joanna Vargas, a celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care and author of Glow From Within, “self-care and ritualizing a routine is something I preach to all my clients.” For Vargas, it’s often the little rituals and sticking to them that can make a big impact over time. “Not only do they lend themselves to becoming a true ritual if we pick something we enjoy, but it also can be a way for us to feel like we are giving ourselves a little grace at the end of a hard day or a stressful week.” Read on to find out the calming rituals top pros swear by.
1. Try Gua Sha
“Gua sha is in medical records of the ancient Chinese dating back to the 1300s believed to have healing powers and ability to move energy through the body,” adds Dr. Shamban. “It’s proven to help reduce inflammation, pressure, tension, and fluids to not only provide relief but also sculpt certain areas of the face.”
You’ve likely already seen many skin-influencers show off their gua sha techniques on Instagram or TikTok already. If you haven’t, now you’ll want to incorporate the hand-held, smooth crystal tool in your complexion-perfecting arsenal. If you’re already gua sha-ing, perhaps you can do it more consistently to fully benefit from its skin sculpting powers.
“Gua sha is great for skin circulation and oxygenation while the fluid movements help to create a sense of calm,” explains Dr. Shamban, who likens the continuous sweeping skin movements to be “like a skin dance.” She recommends gently moving the “sculpted shaped cold stone tool along your skin with moderate strokes to hug the curves of the face and move with care across cheekbones, jawline, neck, and around the eye area.”
2. Dry Brush Your Body
If Gwyneth says dry brushing her body is a must, you know it must be true. This centuries old technique, takes only a few minutes a day, doesn’t cost a lot of money as it only requires the brush and has a long list of pros.
“Just five-minutes of dry brushing a day supports lymphatic drainage by helping to keep fluids and toxins moving through the lymphatic system,” explains Dr. Shamban. What dry brush fans say you’ll notice on the surface include smoother, softer, more toned skin that looks more flawless. Plus, because it enhances exfoliation, your skincare should penetrate more efficiently. Pre- or post-shower, Dr. Shamban says to use “short strokes with the bristles hovering just at the surface of the skin and a light touch directing your movements from the heart outward, moving from your shoulders down over your arms and chest, then across and down your stomach and hips and finish by stroking down your legs.”
Vargas created a dry brush for her namesake line that she intentionally called the Ritual Brush because that’s how important this beauty technique is to her. She encourages her clients to “brush the whole body upwards, towards the heart, to stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory systems,” she notes. “Dry brushing can be done in just a few minutes, and by doing so, you’re helping exfoliation, helping elasticity and assisting the lymphatic system to move out toxins.”
3. Massage Your Face
Along with tapping into the benefits of gua sha, simply being more mindful and intentional of how you apply and massage your skincare into your skin is a ritual that can help make your basic skincare essentials seem like a mindful meditation.
“The holiday and winter season is tough on skin — not only is there a lack of moisture in the environment, we are also consuming more alcohol, sleeping less restfully (due to the increase of activities and events), and eating more comfort food,” Vargas explains. “An everyday ritual I like to teach clients about is incorporating lymphatic massage during their morning routine to keep skin clear, depuffed, and glowing — it’s a lost art and certainly a tool that anyone can use to make the face look rejuvenated,” says Vargas.
After cleansing, apply a hydrating serum such as a hyaluronic acid-based formula followed by an oil-based moisturizer or simply a face oil, “so the hydration stays in your skin throughout the day,” she notes. “Always massage your skin in circular motions upward and outward, starting at the base of your neck on the sides, massage in gentle circles upwards, towards your jaw, up the sides of your face and around your eyes.”
4. Elevate Your Bath
Soaking in a bath to decompress and destress is nothing new. But unless you’re truly a die hard bath person, you likely hardly take the time to take one and if you do, you probably aren’t doing it right. That’s because Vargas explains that when it comes to taking a bath, “the idea is luxury with your time.” Intrigued? Same. That’s why we found out exactly how she says it should be done.
“Every Sunday, I recommend my clients make a ritual out of a bath,” she notes. Her secret to a super luxe soak: She brews a strong pot of chamomile and rosemary on the stove and puts it into the bath water. “It’s a recipe from my grandmother to help hydrate and calm the skin with an added benefit that it makes you feel so de-stressed while you lie there,” she explains.
And although the idea is to relax, you also want to mindfully multitask. “During the bath, apply your favorite face mask — I personally love sheet masks because I can keep a bunch in the bathroom and pick what makes the most sense for my skin at that moment,” she says. And before you step in, have your phone close by to turn up the volume. “Soaking in the tub while listening to a great playlist to give off some soothing vibes is honestly my favorite way to check out and regroup with myself,” she adds.
5. Do a DIY Scalp Massage
Your scalp is often overlooked in general when it comes to your skincare routine. But because your scalp is an extension of the skin on your face (literally) it’s super important to treat it as such. However, a scalp massage with a hair oil not only helps hydrate your scalp (aka the skin at the base of your hair) and increase blood flow, which could in turn help promote healthier looking hair growth, some studies even say it can have powerful stress-relieving and mood-boosting effects. How? By reducing sympathetic nerve activity (which causes anxiety) and increasing parasympathetic nerve activity (which helps keep you relaxed).
Not sure how to start? “First, reach for a hair oil you love the smell of or that’s great for your hair type, and while your hair — and your scalp — is dry, use your finger tips or a silicone scalp massage tool to massage your scalp,” says Dr. Shamban. “Next, move with a smooth, tender touch but also with a good amount of pressure.” Concentrate your motions to go from the center top of your head, then down the sides; restart back at the top and then move toward the front to your forehead and and then back to your neck and repeat. “Pay close attention to above your ears, the nape of the neck and even on your forehead and temples to release the most amount of tension,” she says.